The Case for Not Doing It All: Hiring Out the Deck’s Paint Job

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Earlier this summer, we tore down a massive, scary and unsafe 3-story deck on the back of our home. It was replaced with an extra wide set of pressure-treated wood stairs, which has been everything we hoped it would be – a warm welcome to the backyard, inside to outside flow and, maybe our favorite part, a great perch for stadium-like seating. Once the green wood had dried out enough (thank you, hot summer!), our plan all along was to stain the deck treads a medium grey, and the railings would be bright white.

As a reminder, here’s where we were post-demo, pre-finish:

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And now, it looks like this!

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But you know what? We didn’t paint or stain these stairs ourselves. Although to be fair, we did attempt to do this on our own. Twice.

We stained our front porch, after all! It was a job we didn’t enjoy, but we did it. It took us several days and a lot of patience, but again I say, we did it! So on a warm fall weekend, we threw on our painting clothes, and we began the tedious task of taping off the house, sliding doors, planters, the fence, the gravel below and the entire patio of pavers. Why? Because we learned that painting those railings by hand takes for-ev-er. You might even remember that we taped and protected the front porch, too, and then we sprayed every last bit of railing using our paint gun!

It didn’t take too long before we remembered how much we loathed this job. This same weekend, we had a few other DIYs on our plate, and if we could’ve seen ourselves, we would’ve told ourselves, you’re rushing! This isn’t a race! The wind ripped off our already-taped plastic sheets, and we were getting frustrated. We began arguing over nothing and everything. We had been working for more than an hour at this point, and we had nothing to show for it. I threw my hands up and said, maybe I’ll just do this by hand. It may take a week (or two, let’s be honest), but I can do this. 

My heart wasn’t in it.

By this time, Scott had moved on to other projects, and he said, let’s hire this out. Stubbornly, I insisted this was a job we could do, and he insisted that our time was more valuable. While we have no problem hiring out a job that’s beyond our means – such as new electrical, adding windows or moving walls – I get flustered when it falls under our can-do list. (Remember this?) No matter what, we both agreed that we wanted to complete the paint and stain this year to protect the fresh wood for the long haul. Our neighbor recently had all the trim on her home re-painted, so we asked her if she was happy with her contractor, and she couldn’t give us their number fast enough. I looked at that plastic tarp flapping in the wind, and I caved. Less than a week later, they were at our home, kicking ass and taking names:

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They used the paint and stain we had already purchased, Sherwin Williams Emerald exterior paint in Extra White for the railings and WoodScapes in opaque Flagstone for the treads. Our front porch is stained using Gray Birch, and we’ve always wished it looked a little less blue. Despite that, it has held up remarkably well, so choosing Sherwin Williams again was an easy choice. Flagstone was a bit of a shot in the dark for us, but once both coats had fully dried, it turned into a beautiful warm grey. It was exactly what we were looking for, and eventually, we’ll re-stain the front porch in the same color.

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It cost us $810 to hire out the job, which is not a drop in the bucket, but it was worth every penny and a complete sanity saver. We loved seeing the job move quickly and efficiently, but we especially enjoyed the part where we didn’t have to do a thing. Imagine that! Having done almost every other aspect of our backyard makeover ourselves, it was the best treat to reward ourselves with a little break. We’d do it all over again. Tip: We’ve found that most contractors will offer a cash discount. We saved 10% off of our original quote of $900 by paying in cold, hard dollar bills.

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It should never come as a surprise just how big of a difference paint makes, and yet, it always is! The view from our kitchen, above, has improved ten-fold. Below, a side-by-side, because we all know that those are the most satisfying.

BEFORE AND AFTER

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Although the temperatures are quickly dropping in Chicago, I was able to take photos of our backyard progress a few weeks ago on a sunny day. A big rundown on what we completed this year – and what’s still on the patio to-do list – is coming soon!

PS… If you’re in Chicago and looking for a painter (interior or exterior), we can’t recommend our contractor enough! Send us an email, and I’ll happily pass along his info.

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  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - December 5, 2016 - 9:15 AM

    What a difference! And I couldn’t agree with you more on how important it is to value your time. Even thought we are almost always doing some project on our house, there are tedious projects that can be hired out and everyone is so much happier for it.ReplyCancel

  • Catherine - December 5, 2016 - 9:33 AM

    This looks great! It is amazing the transformation you guys have made in your backyard over the past year. It looks so inviting!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - December 5, 2016 - 11:48 AM

    It is important to think about your time and what’s important to you. Your deck looks great!ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - December 5, 2016 - 1:04 PM

    Looks FANTASTIC!!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - December 6, 2016 - 2:43 PM

    We just hired out some masonry and roof work on our garage and even though it wasn’t cheap, it is so nice to have something done in a few days that I’ve been procrastinating forever!

    We unfortunately used a contractor that our neighbor selected (it’s a shared garage) and it’s been a frustrating process. At least I know better for next time ;).ReplyCancel

  • Haley - April 3, 2017 - 9:14 PM

    Could you pass along the name of the company that built your stairs? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 4, 2017 - 10:09 AM

      They don’t have a website, so feel free to shoot us an email via the contact form, and I can give you all those details!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Fielhauer - April 18, 2017 - 12:07 PM

    I have a pressure treated deck railing im looking at finishing white, but im not sure if i should use paint or solid stain. could you share your thoughts on why you went with paint over stain on the railing? thanksReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 18, 2017 - 12:14 PM

      We used white paint out in the front, too! If you use an exterior grade paint, it will hold up really well to the elements. We wanted it to look completely opaque, and most opaque stains don’t even come in a bright white finish. Paint won out for the railings!ReplyCancel

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